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Anger as Belfast's Queen University dumps sociology degree

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/09/2016

Review: Patrick Johnston
Review: Patrick Johnston

Queen's academics have been left reeling after the university announced the ditching of its sociology degree.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academics, said staff were informed of the decision on Friday.

Single honours degrees in sociology and anthropology had been threatened earlier this year under the university's Size And Shape Review that saw a number of departments shrunk.

The decision to cut them was delayed in June.

Now the university has gone ahead with its plan to dump the single honours degree in sociology.

It is not known if the move will result in job losses.

Earlier this year Queen's said there would be no compulsory redundancies arising from the review.

Queen's UCU president Dr Fabian Schuppert said it was "a completely unacceptable and indefensible about-turn which threatens to undermine staff-management relations and the university's reputation".

He said sociology academics had carried out a substantial review of the Bachelor of Arts degree "proving its sustainability and potential, but senior management decided to ignore it".

He added: "It's incredible that, at a time when Queen's is awash with money, and on the basis of flawed reasoning and poor evidence, the faculty has basically told staff that the single honours sociology course will be closed - and jobs might be lost - without reasonable thought and in direct opposition to the suggestion of the review and consultation group.

"In June vice-chancellor Patrick Johnston agreed to review the plans and work towards a reinstatement of the courses and staff.

"A consultation group was set up and it recommended to keep both single honours sociology and single honours anthropology.

"But senior management simply decided to ignore this advice in the case of sociology."

Sociology lecturer Dr Veronique Altglas said she was "shocked and appalled" at the news.

"It's just unbelievable. We're really annoyed and worried by it all," she said.

"Many staff here have relocated from quite a distance, have planned to make a life here, but the university seems to care little about staff welfare.

"It is deeply unfair to us - and flippant and short-sighted in how it makes plans for the future of higher education."

A university spokesman said Queen's regularly reviews all its academic programmes 'to sustain its position as a world class university',

"A working group from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences involving academic colleagues and student representatives has been considering the Single Honours in Sociology as a sustainable proposition," he said.

"The engagement of subject staff and students in the process has been very positive.

"Staff and student representatives were briefed on Friday on the output from the working group. A recommendation is to be taken to the University's Executive Board and Senate.

"Sociology will continue to be offered at both undergraduate and postgraduate level and makes a strong contribution to the research vitality of the University."

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